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Thursday, 15 November, 2018

The Ebor lowdown: all you need to know as Stratum bids to strike for Ireland

Stratum draws clear of his rivals in the JLT Cup at Newbury
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3.40 York
Sky Bet Ebor Handicap | Heritage Handicap | 1m6f | 4yo+ | ITV/RUK

Irish horses have won the Ebor twice in the last four years and with Willie Mullins fielding two as part of a four-strong raiding party, the tricolour could fly high again after Saturday's £500,000 highlight.

Stratum, the ante-post favourite, only secured a berth in the race at Thursday's declaration stage, sneaking in at spot 19 of 20 having given backers a few sleepless nights.

"It was touch and go early in the week whether Stratum would get in and we were very relieved when he did," said Mullins, whose main hope is owned by Tony 'the Lizard' Bloom, who has a big day with Flaming Spear running at Goodwood and his Brighton football team taking on Liverpool at Anfield.

Stratum was third in the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting before recording a dominant victory in the JLT Cup at Newbury last month.

"This has been the plan since his win at Newbury and he's in good form," continued Mullins. "He's dropping in trip so we'll have to see how he deals with it."

Mullins also fields Ascot Stakes fifth Whiskey Sour, last seen finishing seventh in the Galway Hurdle.

He added: "Whiskey Sour is also in good form and another who stays well. Both should like the ground."

Key fancies drawn low

Stratum and fellow ante-post gamble Blakeney Point are drawn low in gates two and four.

That could be considered a negative as low draws have fared poorly in recent years, with just one of the last ten winners breaking from a single-digit stall – Litigant from six in 2015. 

"I'd have preferred to be higher but we can't control that," said Blakeney Point's trainer Roger Charlton, who has booked Jamie Spencer to ride with his intended jockey, Ryan Moore, at Saratoga to partner Mendelssohn.

Blakeney Point has been laid out for the race with three eyecatching runs, including in the Group 3 Glorious Stakes at Goodwood, which sets him up nicely.

"It's a very generous prize so has been on a lot of people's radar for a long time," said Charlton. "It's a tough race to win but the plan was to give him a lead up of two or three races to get here in good shape. We're happy with him. You need a lot of luck but he's in good form."

Teodoro's paper advantage

On paper, there are few more eyecatching horses than Teodoro, who is 9lb well-in for his recent win in the Group 3 Rose of Lancaster.

He carries a 4lb penalty for that, having been raised 13lb for his three-and-a-quarter-length win at Haydock, although he is tackling a trip beyond a mile and a half for the first time.

Teodoro: Rose of Lancaster winner is 9lb well-in

"The trip shouldn't be a problem and he seems very well," said trainer Tom Dascombe.

"He's gone up 13lb for his last win, so effectively he's 9lb well-in, but I don't think that's a true reflection – there's a big difference between a small-field Group 3 where you get the run of the race and a 20-runner handicap. If it was a true reflection he wouldn't be 14-1, he'd be 7-2 favourite!

"He's fit, well, healthy and happy. He won his last race well and has a chance. He goes forward so I'd have thought a low draw (three), which he's got, is better than a high draw."

Top-weight a big ask for Weekender

No horse has carried top-weight to Ebor victory since Sea Pigeon in 1979, a statistic which lays bare the scale of the task facing the John Gosden-trained Weekender, who shoulders the top burden.

Ultra-consistent, he has never finished outside the first three since his debut and was last seen finishing a neck second over course and distance in a June Listed race.

Sea Pigeon (left) wins the 1979 Ebor under Jonjo O'Neill

"Weekender has the burden of 9st 12lb as he has 2lb on top of topweight, which is a big ask, but he ran well over course and distance behind Marmelo last time," said Gosden.

Gosden also saddles Muntahaa and added: "He's been running well this summer without winning but has a wide draw [21] to overcome.

"Both have had this on their radar for some time and are in good shape."

What the rest say 

Marco Botti, trainer of Crowned Eagle and Dylan Mouth
Dylan Mouth won a Group 3 last time and Crowned Eagle ran well in the Old Newton Cup. The ground should be fine for both. Crowned Eagle is drawn a little bit wide, but he likes to run handy so whether that's a disadvantage, we'll see. Dylan Mouth is definitely capable of winning at this sort of level.

Andrew Balding, trainer of Scotland and Montaly
We're leaving the hood off Scotland, which is a bit of an experiment, but two runs ago he went close in a Group 3 over course and distance and he's not a 40-1 chance. Montaly is well-suited by big fields, is well-drawn and in great form. He's a Lonsdale winner from last year and I think he'll run well too.

Charlie Johnston, assistant to Mark Johnston, trainer of Time To Study
He's been running regularly and has been a little disappointing. We've been hoping for some easier ground but when there's half a million on offer you're going to roll the dice. With a visor on for the first time and Silvestre [de Sousa] on we hope that can bring about some improvement.

Ian Williams, trainer of Saunter
He was obliged to gain two penalties to get a run in the race but the trip and track should suit him perfectly. He's not badly drawn. He's probably susceptible to slightly better-handicapped horses but is at the top of his game and full of confidence.

Hughie Morrison, trainer of Fun Mac
He ran a very good race in the November Handicap last year over a mile and a half and in another furlong would have been right there. He hasn't covered himself in glory on previous visits to York but has been in good form all year. Being drawn 22 might be too far out but it's better than being drawn on the rail.

Ralph Beckett, trainer of Mountain Bell
Her profile tells you things don't always go smoothly but I've had a good run with her lately and am optimistic of a good show.

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It's a very generous prize so has been on a lot of people's radar for a long time
E.W. Terms
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